These keywords have been on the agenda of all education Ministries for the past years. Is it invocation? Empty promise? Visionary policies?
Technology has been around for the last 20 years in a way or another. Seymour Papert at the very beginning of the internet era wrote that technology was “going to displace school and the way we have understood school.” He saw the “fundamental nature of school coming to an end” but 20 years later schools are still there and just about to change.
As inconceivable as it may seem, schools, as we have known them, have continued. The same buildings host the same classrooms with a standard spatial organization and the same “curriculum dictatorship” even though core curriculum has changed many times in every country. What is taught remains more important than what is learned and it is not enough to add coding to the curriculum to change the way we learn at school.
Schools have not changed enough when children have changed drastically. School children belong to the generations who have been raised in a context where digital technologies form an inextricable part of daily life. The so-called New Millenium Learners “NML” or Digital natives spend the same time on electronic media a week than an adult at the workplace.
When children come to school, they already know lots of things that schools will never teach them. We have (re)discovered that children have this incredible ability to learn by exploring and in specific contexts even to teach themselves. They can access knowledge when they want to, when they need to. But school is certainly the only place where they can’t exercise freely these abilities. Teachers in their vast majority are still unable to use the technology they have access to in a creative way for educative purposes. How come could these children still accept to study the French revolution when they have the possibility with a video game “Assassin’s Creed” to be french revolutionaries themselves
It is still unclear how schools should and could transform themselves to better respond to the needs of these “NML” and the society they live in.
On the organizational side, several questions are raised. Are we aiming at lesser pupils per classroom? Even in a no change context, classrooms will certainly experience a decrease in the number of students due to demographic trends. Will we be able to invest heavily on the teachers to recruit the best talents into teaching (and among the best, the very best in the most challenging schools as does Teach for All)? We have seen in the last 4 years how uncertainties regarding economic growth are rapidly translated into budgetary cuts in education and into less innovation.
On the pedagogical side, many question marks remain. How will we address the need for more creativity in the classroom? Do we advocate – as Paulo Freire did in the 80’s – for a pedagogy of the question (rather than of the answer)? Should we prioritize activity-based learning rather than traditional lecturing as in the flipped classroom model? Will we substitute – in words of John Seely Brown - a school of “learning about” by a school of “learning to be”? The answers will depend largely on our capacity to engage teachers in inventing new teaching practices to achieve these new pedagogical objectives and fully utilize the new teaching technologies made available to them.